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Boundaries and Legal Issues for Wisconsin Woodland Owners
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Boundaries and Legal Issues for Wisconsin Woodland Owners

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Presentation for Wisconsin woodland owners on legal and boundary issues.

Presentation for Wisconsin woodland owners on legal and boundary issues.

Published in: Real Estate, Technology, Business

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  • Speakers: for each slide, there are several notes for you in preparation for the talk. Feel free to use these ideas or not. We create these presentations for a consistent message in each class. Feel free to personalize the presentation as you are comfortable. **Note- There is considerable overlap between the Property Boundaries and the Legal Issues presentations. Borders is covered in less detail in Legal Issues, and laws are covered in less detail here. Consult the other if you want more detail on either topic. Publications: 10 Ways to Protect Your Woodland Property (FR-313)Trespass handout (UW)Timber Theft (excerpt from an article); Wisconsin’s recreational use statute (G3326); Fences in agricultural areas (UWEX Local government center fact sheet No. 13 1999);
  • The PLSS is what we use today and the basic unit is the township which is 6 miles on each side. The township is broken into 36 sections that are 1 mile on each side.
  • Surveys begin in the 1830’s after the Government land office opened the state to settlement.
  • After the feds established the township corners, other crews surveyed smaller units. Some surveys are still being done.
  • The south half of the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 24 in township 33 north and 9E
  • One acre equals slightly less than 1 football field, 10 square chains, or an oxen’s day of work
  • A typical plat book page. This one is of part of the Town of Newbold and part of the Town of Pine Lake. Note all the features shown including water, roads, ownership types, and property sizes and shapes.
  • Some examples of markers utilized by surveyors to mark a corner or location of significance.
  • With your property description in hand, you can use some simple and complex tools to roughly identify your property boundaries and corners.Describe how each tool works and how to determine each person’s pace for measuring distance.
  • Between the birch and the balsam fir to the right. Silver with red flagging. (Next slide is close-up)
  • Close up from previous slide.
  • Bent rebar next to closest fir. (Next slide is close-up)
  • Close up from previous slide.
  • Is the old fence line the property line? Maybe.
  • Often you won’t be able to find a monument.
  • Some instances when paying for a survey is warranted.
  • Some instances when paying for a survey is warranted.
  • What a property owner will end up with after a survey is completed.
  • www.wsls.org
  • Adverse possession will be covered in more detail laterSquatters rightsTaking ownership of someone else’s land by using it for a period of timeMust be openly, hostilely, and continuously occupied or usedUse must be substantial: Cultivation, improvement, fencing, cutting of firewood (Mistaken lot line – not adverse possession)Usually occurs when neighbor places a fence on another's propertyInteresting – but doesn’t happen often!Time of adverse possession required:7 years - written document (e.g. deed or judgment) & paid taxes10 years – written document 20 years – use onlyExamples of use of your land?Neighbors building is 2 feet over on your landNeighbor has a garden on your landProtections for yourself: Kick neighbor off land; Give permission in writing to use land, but not take possessionTALK TO A LAWYER!
  • To use the land = for example, hunt, fish, or gather products of the soil (berries, firewood, etc.) Wisconsin’s Trespass Law:It used to be that if private land was not posted, people could legally access it. Not anymore. State Statute 943.13 states that “It is trespass for a person to enter or remain on land if the person receives notice from the owner or occupant not to enter or remain on the land.” For certain types of land (fenced, cultivated, or undeveloped) formal notice is NOT required. “Recreational users are responsible for knowing property boundaries. Ignorance of a law doesn’t protect people from prosecution.”
  • Common question: Easement Road/ Town Road  public access to “ditches”; easement roads ownership to center line.Public lands include: national forest, state wildlife management area, or county park. Wisconsin’s Trespass Law:It used to be that if private land was not posted, people could legally access it. Not anymore. State Statute 943.13 states that “It is trespass for a person to enter or remain on land if the person receives notice from the owner or occupant not to enter or remain on the land.” For certain types of land (fenced, cultivated, or undeveloped) formal notice is NOT required. “Recreational users are responsible for knowing property boundaries. Ignorance of a law doesn’t protect people from prosecution.”
  • For hunters:If a shot deer runs onto an adjacent property, the hunter needs permission from the landowner to pursueIf can’t locate the owner or can’t get permission to pursue, a DNR warden has the authority to go and retrieve the deer
  • Wisconsin’s Recreational Use Statute:Section 895.52 of the State Statutes (known as the Recreational Use Statute) “limits private property owners’ responsibility for injury to people who use their land for recreation” and for “injuries to a person engaged in a recreational activity when the injuries are caused by another recreational user or by a wild animal.” Notice that this doesn’t say that landowners are immune from being sued. You may still be sued and be responsible for defending yourself in court. Recreation is defined in the statute to include almost everything except organized team activities.According to the Statute, landowners are not legally obliged to:Keep their property safe for recreational activityInspect their propertyGive warning of an unsafe condition or activity on their propertyExceptions when the landowner might be liable include: If the owner maliciously neglects to warn about a known hazard (I.e. open well, dilapidated building, etc.)When the landowner acts maliciously causing the injury or deathWhen a “social guest” is injured near the owner’s home or near (within 300’) a building used for making or selling something. Note: a “social guest” is someone personally invited for the activity in which the injury occurred) When the landowner collects substantial amounts of money or goods ($>2,000 in the year in which the injury occurs, in the form of money, goods, or services)When the person injured is an employee acting within the scope of his or her duties
  • You are liable if you allow access to your land and maliciously fail to disclose a known hazard or create one. you accept more than $2,000 in compensation through a rental or lease agreement for the use of your property for recreational purposesYou invite guests expressly and individually for a specific occasion. Because of these exclusions, liability insurance is still recommended, especially if you occasionally invite guests to use your property.
  • Bring up website to point out pubs.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Legal Issues for Landowners Paul Kloppenburg, Wisconsin DNR John Exo, UW-Extension
    • 2. Learning Objectives• Know how to identify your property boundaries;• Understand the common laws that affect woodland owners;
    • 3. Identifying Property BoundariesWhy identify boundaries? – Timber harvests – Reduce trespass – Avoid adverse possession (extremely rare) – Not everyone knows where boundaries are
    • 4. History continued• Township exteriors surveyed first• Interior sections surveyed later• County surveyors – Established interior section corners from original surveys
    • 5. Original survey notes
    • 6. Legal Descriptions township 6 5 4 3 2 1 7 8 9 10 11 12 18 17 16 15 14 13 1 Section = 640 acres 19 20 21 22 23 24 30 29 28 27 26 251 mile 31 32 33 34 35 36 1 mile
    • 7. Identifying Property BoundariesHow to read a legal description:The tax bill lists S1/2, NESE, 24, 33N 9E, 20.00.The legal description is: “south half of the Northeast quarter of the Southeast quarter, Section 24, Township 33N, Range 9E (range is E or W), 20 acres”
    • 8. SE1/4NW1/4 , Sec 21, T2N, R3W
    • 9. Evolution of Plat Maps• Original plat map of a town• Note no roads, but water features• Used for original land claims
    • 10. Evolution of Plat Maps• Moderate division• Still large parcels
    • 11. Evolution of Plat Maps• Modern plat map• Unique section lines…• Extensive land division
    • 12. Identifying Property Boundaries Historic section or ¼ section corner markers:
    • 13. Find the corner post
    • 14. Find the corner post
    • 15. Find the corner post
    • 16. Find the corner post
    • 17. Find the corner post
    • 18. Find the corner post
    • 19. Find the corner post
    • 20. When Should a Property be Surveyed?• Property is divided for sale• Sale, purchase or mortgage• Property improvements planned or to be developed• Burning desire to find corners…
    • 21. When Should a Property be Surveyed?• When regulations or programs require a survey and map• When location of boundaries or corners is uncertain• When trespass or encroachment is evidenced or suspected.
    • 22. What will a survey do or show?Surveys can: – Locate ownership boundaries – Establish property corners – Locate parcel improvements – Create a map with parcel legal description – Create a map filed or recorded with county
    • 23. How is a Survey Obtained?• Must be performed by a Registered Land Surveyor• Phonebook, by reputation, or Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors• Ensure surveyor is licensed (wsls.org)
    • 24. Survey CostDepends on:• Previous surveys-of-record• Condition of record• Land terrain• Weather• Complexity of survey (e.g. finding or replacing monuments/corners, marking lines, etc.)
    • 25. Notes on Access to LandAccess to land not guaranteedEnsure you have access when purchasingLandlocked parcels – Written easement (best) – Good will of neighbor (might change) – Prescriptive easement (costly legal process) – Town board condemns right-of-way (unlikely)
    • 26. Final note on boundariesGood idea to walk your property lines at least once a year
    • 27. Laws • Wisconsin’s trespass law: – State Statute 943.13 – Revised in 1996 • Recreational Use StatutePhoto by Matthew Davis – State Statute 895.52For more information: • Fence Law Woodland Management(WWOA) Fall 2000 issue – Chapter 90
    • 28. Trespass Law (943.13)Trespassing is: • entering enclosed or cultivated land • to use the land • without permission.• Entering with a vehicle without permission is also trespassing.• These actions constitute trespass even if the land is not posted.
    • 29. Trespass Law (943.13)• 1996 Revision • Shifts responsibility onto recreationists to check first • Not required to post “No Trespassing” • Or identify your property boundaries… • Unless your land is surrounded by or borders public lands
    • 30. What to do in cases of trespass• Ignorance of the law is not a defense• Call the county sheriff• For hunters: – If a shot deer runs onto an adjacent property – If can’t locate the owner or can’t get permission to pursue
    • 31. Recreational Use Statute (895.52)• AKA- “Berry picker law”• Limits private landowners’ liability• Landowners do not have a duty to: – inspect the property, – keep it safe, or – give warning of an unsafe condition.
    • 32. Recreational Use Statute (895.52)You can be liable if you:1. Allow access and don’t disclose a known hazard or create one.2. Accept more than $2,000 in compensation3. Invite guests expressly and individually for a specific occasion.*Because of these exclusions, liability insurance is still recommended
    • 33. Recreational Use Statute (895.52)On private, Managed Forest Law lands:• Although not required, courtesy to ask permission• Allowable recreation on open MFL land -hunting -hiking -fishing -sight-seeing -cross-country skiing Other activities permissible only by consent.
    • 34. Fencing Issues for Woodlot Owners• When is a fence required?• Who pays?• What is a legal fence?• Procedure to resolve disputes
    • 35. WARNINGS !• Fences are not boundaries!• Nobody wants to pay for a surveyor!• Woodlot owners may need to build fences!
    • 36. Fence Law• Chapter 90 – Old law with very few updates – “common sense” approach – Used now more than ever – 2008 challenge: woodlot owners
    • 37. When is a fence required?• If either property is used for: – grazing – farming• Neighbors may mutually agree to not have a fence.• YES, if you have woods and your neighbor has livestock, a fence is required
    • 38. How is a fence divided between neighbors?• “Partition” – Legal term – Divided evenly- you pay for half the fence• Neighbors may agree otherwise – In writing, filed with town clerk – Previous oral agreements not binding on present owner
    • 39. “Legal Fence”• Lots of choices: – Woven wire – Woven wire with barbed or high tensile wire – Board – Board and wire – Wire and picket – Barbed wire – High tensile wire – Electric (both agree in writing, 2 wires) – Other
    • 40. Resolving disputes• Significant room for interpretation – Water may be fence – Shallow water• Allow recreational use• Fence viewers resolve disputes• Town Boards often mediate
    • 41. FARM A – Fence responsibility NNNNNNNAAAAAAAAAAAA A N A N A N N A N A N FARM A A AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA road-road-road-road-road-road-roadRule of Thumb-“Whenever practicable…when facing afarm, going around the farm to the right, the first one-half of the line fence belongs to the farm faced.”
    • 42. Moral of the story• Good fences make good neighbors
    • 43. More resources• www.slideshare.net/jexo• DNR Publications – 10 Ways to Protect Your Woodland Property• UW-Extension Publications – Wisconsin’s Recreational Use Statute – Learningstore.uwex.edu
    • 44. Questions?Paul Kloppenburg, 608-355-4476 John Exo, 608-355-3554
    • 45. A Word About Timber Theft• Harvesting across the property line• Cutting unmarked timber• Skimming off the top• Under-reporting timber volume• False reporting of a species• Failure to accurately report volume• Failure to report all deliveries• Falsifying mill slips• Stealing from log decks